Ephesians 4: 8-10
This is why it says:
‘When he ascended on high,
he took many captives
and gave gifts to his people.’
(What does ‘he ascended’ mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)
Philippians 2: 8-10
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death –
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
From an external, human perspective, as Jesus hung naked on the cross, the life bleeding out of Him, it looked like the most devastating defeat and a terrible, tragic end to the hopes of those who had given up everything to follow Him. However, in the invisible, spiritual realm, something incredible was stirring, battle lines were being drawn as the enemies of God celebrated their apparent victory. God used the cruel cross of Calvary as camouflage to position Jesus to conquer His enemies for all time. The putrid smell of death was covering the greatest victory that would ever be won, one that would plunder hell and the grave for all eternity and set captives free.
Colossians 2: 13-15 gives us some insight into what Jesus was achieving on our behalf:
"...God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross."
As Jesus descended into death, He was on a mission to bring life to everything, everywhere. He entered Hades, the place of the dead, and with absolute authority, total dominion and complete certainty, He destroyed death's power once and for all.
In 1977 at a conference in the States, a Canadian evangelist called Ern Baxter gave a stunning message called 'Thy Kingdom Come'. This is how he described Jesus' victory over the hordes of Hell:
"So Jesus came down from His Cross and confronted the satanic prince and He said, "I'll take those keys". Satan said, "No one has ever talked to me like this before". Jesus replied, "No one had the authority to before. But as God's King, as the One who has now been given authority as God's delegated Sovereign, I am in charge now. I'll take the keys". Satan handed Him the keys. Then Jesus went over to the unrighteous section, opened the door and looked in and pronounced that they had been righteously judged for having rejected God's counsel under the old economy. Then He shut the door and left them there. But then He turned to the gate of Paradise and opened and said, "Come on - let's go"
Jesus' apparent humiliation turned out to be the ruination and condemnation of the evil one. The final vindication and public declaration of His undisputed victory came when Jesus, the Son of God, was gloriously raised back to life.
One recent worship song puts it like this:
But on that day
What seemed as the darkest hour
A violent hope
Broke through and shook the ground
And as You rose
The Light of all the world was magnified
And You rose in victory
(Bethel Music: For the Cross)
Because Jesus has defeated death and our life is in Him, we also share in His victory, we too are more than conquerors, we are seated with Him in the heavenly realms and we can be confident and secure that death no longer has any power over us, for it has been once and for all destroyed. Like Paul, we can boldly declare:
"Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Cor 15: 55 & 57)
Jesus is now seated at the Father's right hand, exercising His authority and power through His Body, the Church. Our job is to obey and enforce His final commission: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations..." (Matt 28: 19-19) If He has ALL authority, that means that Satan has none. He is a defeated foe, making his final desperate attempts to "steal, kill and destroy" until He is completely banished from the earth and destroyed once and for all. Therefore, confidently and with full assurance, we fight from victory, not for victory.
While Jesus' victory becomes personal for each person who says 'yes' to Him, it never remains private. Salvation is not limited to my story, it is cosmic and needs to be proclaimed to all creation. Jesus is not simply Lord of the Church but He is Lord of everything, everywhere and for all time. He rules and reigns over all things in control of history and humanity. His beauty, majesty, creativity, authority and glory are to be put on display by His people, in every section of society and every corner of culture, that He might receive the full reward of His work. Or as Ern Baxter articulated it so well 40 years ago:
"God's purpose is not to redeem a bunch of people to sit at a bus stop and wait for the bus to come along and get them out of the world's mess. Rather God has redeemed them and cleaned them up and put Himself into them that He may send them back in to clean up the mess and be 'the salt of the earth' and the 'light of the world' so that with the power of the gospel they may vindicate God's purpose in the death and resurrection of His Son."
We look forward to seeing you this Sunday at 9.30 am, 11.30 am and 7.00 pm.